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Educators weigh in on the role of analytics in improving student performance

Senior Marketing Manager, IBM

Although recent reports have indicated that U.S. high school graduation rates have reached an all-time high, many students are still struggling to graduate and compete in today’s global economy. With numerous studies suggesting the correlation between education and economic prosperity, having a well-trained workforce has many advantages.

Many school districts have been proactively addressing this problem and are taking the appropriate steps to improve the learning outcomes of their pupils. Explore how two such districts, Hamilton County Department of Education and Mobile County Public Schools used IBM Analytics to intervene and offer at-risk students the support they needed to help uncover key factors that may impede their ability to perform.

How can IT contribute to raising student graduation rates?

  • Hamilton County Department of Education: We used IBM SPSS and IBM Cognos Business Intelligence (BI) technologies to achieve a record-high 84.5 percent graduation rate in 2013.
  • Mobile County Public Schools: We used IBM data warehousing to raise graduation rates by three percent.

Is it possible to identify at-risk students before they drop out? If so, how?

  • Hamilton County Department of Education: Yes. Utilizing analytics helped increase our graduation rate from 24 percent to 86 percent in five years at Howard High School.
  • Mobile County Public Schools: Yes. We used analytics to identify these students within a population of over 17,000 high school students.

How does analytics affect school curricula?

  • Hamilton County Department of Education: IBM enabled us to use data mining and text analytics to assess different types of teacher training against subsequent student progress and performance.
  • Mobile County Public Schools: IBM provided us with insight into specific students to make a difference.

How can we use data to determine if a student is in need?

  • Hamilton County Department of Education: We were able to track student performance and provide teachers, social workers and administrators with the insight they needed to predict when students are at risk of underperforming or dropping out, and then proactively intervened.
  • Mobile County Public Schools: Analytics provided our teachers and counselors with information on our pupils to give them encouragement and reach out to parents to help solve student problems.

How can analytics improve schools and districts?

  • Hamilton County Department of Education: Our enhancements in teacher training, combined with our existing analytics–led approach to continuous improvement, have contributed to a record 2013 for our county. It was rated in the top five percent of Tennessee school systems for performance and in the top ten percent for progress in 2013.
  • Mobile County Public Schools: We are using intelligence to forge a closer bond with our students to help provide them with what they need and to make sure they get the most from their educational experience. That intelligence is helping us to shape citizens that are better prepared for today’s more competitive world.

How can data tell a student's story?

  • Hamilton County Department of Education: We used analytics to learn which types of training were most effective in promoting student growth, and it revealed that instructional behavior was the most important focus. Aligning teaching practices with the latest research about how children learn is vital, and we are making it our primary focus for professional development.
  • Mobile County Public Schools: IBM offers the Business Intelligence (BI) capability that enables school officials to define different at-risk scenarios, which helps them to proactively identify students at risk of dropping out. Moreover, BI also enables deeply understanding the different factors—domestic, learning-related or social—that affect this risk. Identifying and tracking risk patterns in real time enables teachers and counselors to intervene before problems begin to snowball.

What are your thoughts? How is data and analytics making a difference in your industry? Weigh in by adding a comment.

Read the full case studies with Hamilton County Public Schools and Mobile County Public Schools.